During the Christmas period I was having lunch with two of my business colleagues and my new Practice Manager. The discussion ranged in topics from work, life-experiences to children. Although everyone was participating I observed that my new Practice Manager only shared stories when she was asked and she did not generate any questions herself. Later in the day I mentioned my observation to her and her response was as follows:
“I didn’t realize that I was not asking any questions.”
Like my new Practice Manager, I have observed that many people tend to engage in conversation only when they are asked questions. They are happy to share their stories but they don’t ask questions in return and by doing so intentionally or not, it makes them look less interested in others. While becoming more interesting is a worthwhile pursuit, it is certainly not everything in becoming accepted, appreciated and respected. Becoming appreciated requires creating lasting impressions in others by becoming genuinely interested in them.
So how do we become interested in others?
- Focus on being curious about others: what makes them interesting?
- Ask questions: questions give you the opportunity to gather information and learn about others.
- Demonstrate your listening by paraphrasing some of the important points of the conversation. This also allows for clarification of any misunderstandings.
- Share something of yourself that could be connected to what the other person has said. This helps create a sense of affiliation.
- Observe the non-verbal cues and respond accordingly.
Being interested in others is an important part of building rapport and trust. It can improve our communication both domestically and globally. It can also create greater engagement of people, improve team collaboration, leadership skills and customer satisfaction.
“If you want to have an interesting dinner conversation, be interested. If you want to have interesting things to write, be interested. If you want to meet interesting people, be interested in the people you meet—their lives, their history, their story. Where are they from? How did they get here? What have they learned? By practicing the art of being interested, the majority of people can become fascinating teachers; nearly everyone has an interesting story to tell.”
John W. Gardner (1912 – 2002, American intellectual and public servant)